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Inpho Kearney dives over in the corner for Ireland's second try against Fiji.
# Mixed Bag
'That pass I threw probably ruined the try I scored, it dampens my performance'
Dave Kearney marked his return to the international stage with a try, but a costly error stained his ledger.

IT SAYS A lot about Dave Kearney’s overall contribution that Joe Schmidt singled him out for praise in his post-match press conference, but next door the Leinster winger was left to pore over a performance speckled with one costly error.

On his return to the international stage for the first time since the 2016 Six Nations, Kearney’s defensive shift was faultless as he made some important tackles and showed his awareness by covering for Darren Sweetnam on more than one occasion.

There was also a fourth Test try, the 28-year-old’s rugby intelligence showing as he maintained good width to run it into the corner; and there could have been more had Andrew Conway’s knock on not been spotted by the officials. It was all positive.

“Great to be back firstly,” he says. “It’s been a year and a half since I last got to put on a green jersey. It is a long time. It is a great feeling to be back out there and I enjoyed it.

“Personally the first half went well, a couple of nice touches, a couple of decent tackles but obviously disappointed to give that intercept pass away.”

And there lies the blot on the copybook, one passage of play which stains the performance and a decision — to fling it wide and into the hands of Timoci Nagusa – which will grate for a while. The margins between success and failure are incredibly fine at this level. Three v two overlap in Ireland’s favour turned into the concession of seven points.

“That’s dampening my performance a bit,” Kearney admits. “It was nice to get in the mix again and feel part of the squad, part of the team again because it’s been a long while out.

“It’s always nice to get on the score-sheet but like I said that pass I threw probably ruined the try I scored.

“The Fijians love to do that, especially the wingers. I didn’t see him at the time. I tried to whip the ball across to Stuart McCloskey. He had a nice bit of space but I didn’t (get him the ball). I saw him (Nagusa) pop it up in the air and he grabbed it. Disappointing but I’ll learn from that.”

It may seem harsh to be so self-critical, but Kearney knew this was his opportunity.

A ridiculously tough run with injuries behind him, Saturday represented a huge opening for the winger to work his way back into Schmidt’s plan and while he did the basics incredibly well, that attempted skip pass will play over in his head this week.

“Of course I’ll take the positives out of it as well, it’s just straight after a game you think about the negatives that you do and you don’t really think about the positives that much,” he reflects.

Jordi Murphy and Dave Kearney after the game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“But Joe said to me afterwards that there were still some positives in that performance as well, which is good to hear too.

“It’s great to feel that buzz again of playing for your country and it’s always a step up even from playing the big games for Leinster.

“You get to represent your country and just the whole build-up to the game, the day of the game and you get to sing the anthem again, and face the Fijian war dance, that’s all brilliant and it probably gives you an extra bit of motivation.

“It gives you a feel for it again, to keep working hard and try to get back in the team.”

Therein lies the challenge.

Even with Keith Earls ruled out and Adam Byrne still a little raw for the Test arena, Kearney, it would appear, is unlikely to have done enough to move himself up the pecking order for Argentina.

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You’d imagine Jacob Stockdale will return to the fold and Conway, superb again on Saturday, will revert back to the wing for the visit of the Pumas. Darren Sweetnam is probably in pole position to take a seat on the bench, although Kearney is trusted by Schmidt.

“You always have to back yourself and I did, I had confidence there and self-belief,” the 17-time capped wing adds.

“It probably took me a while at the start of the season to get up and going, I only played five or six games last year and it takes a few games to get back into it and spare time that you might not think would be big but in the height of battle in a game, in what could be big moments, that stuff takes time to get back into.

“But you’ve got to give yourself a chance. I know the competition that’s there in the back three, there’s a lot, and when you get a chance you have to take it as best you can because there’s always lads who can come in straight away, there were lads last week who did well on the wings.

“So I just need to play well and try and get back in the team.”

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